Tag Archives: zero waste

This is Not About Pickles

I HAVE THESE URGES, YOU SEE.

They started years ago when I began regular fitness training, and especially once I started running races. They are what get me out of bed and onto the road on a winter morning, into the gym on a hot afternoon, or on the bike for a “quick 25 miles” at the end of a long day. Anyone into fitness activities can relate, I think.

Yet as beneficial for my body and my mental discipline as these urges are, sometimes they can be a real pain in the ass.

This past weekend I was on my feet a lot, managing the Zero Waste program for two morning races; Running Between the Vines on Saturday, then Swim to the Moon on Sunday. Both days I was at the venue by 5:30 a.m. and in more or less constant motion well into the afternoon checking stations, hauling collected compost and recyclables, and performing emergency sorting on unlabeled bins that well-meaning people had set out without my knowledge. (I’m not bitter about that. Really, I’m not.)

There are some advantages to working events like this!

But I survived, and all went well. This is what I train for, right? Running long races, and working long races. And sometimes both, as with last April when I ran the Trail Marathon and then worked the waste stations.

So what had me feeling oddly guilty on Sunday evening, when the work was done and I could put my feet up for a bit?

I didn’t get a run in.

And that had me feeling inadequate.

I get it, okay? I know it’s silly to feel this way. And it’s not like I slacked off. This morning my body felt just as fatigued as if I’d done a long run the day before. I actually looked forward to today’s afternoon workout, cuz I knew the heat and humidity would get my sore and creaky body warm and loose again.

Oh yeah, that hits the spot!

And so it proved; those thirty minutes of brutality worked out the kinks and soreness, and I’m back to feeling pretty good again. So I’ll plan on getting in a good run tomorrow.

Yet the drive to stick to my regular training schedule, and not miss a run or workout for any reason, is hard to turn off. Perhaps it’s fear that drives it. Not a fear that I’ll lose fitness, but that I’ll lose the desire to remain fit.

And that would suck.

See? Even potatoes can get off the couch!

I know life comes with no guarantees about lifespan or health. But I can give myself the best shot at a long, healthy life by eating right, getting enough sleep, and by staying active and fit. I want to have a high quality of life for as long as possible.

Plus, for whatever reason, I enjoy the activity; the ultramarathons, the long bike rides, and the ability to work all day keeping stuff out of landfills. This, too, contributes to my quality of life. And I have some goals yet to achieve too, like a six-minute mile, a half marathon in under 90 minutes, and plenty of races of all kinds that look intriguing.

And so I’ll put up with the urges.

Because they’re for my own good.

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And since you’ve read this far, you deserve this link to one of the classic jokes about urges: The Pickle Factory. Enjoy!

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The Zen of Zero Waste: An Evening at Robin Hills Farm

NOTE: I don’t usually cross-post here what I write about Zero Waste, but I’m making an exception for my experience at Robin Hills Farm. (Plus I *did* run the 5K.) Enjoy!

Happy Planet Running

Organic, sustainable farming is growing in popularity. But how many places do you know who combine farming with education, family activities, and even athletic events? Well, there’s one just north of Chelsea, MI – right in my backyard – doing exactly that.

Robin Hills Farm was just scrubland in 2014 when the land was purchased, but it’s rapidly turning into a cutting-edge operation with diverse farming practices working together. Their focus is on zero – zero net energy, zero waste – using one product of the growing cycle to sustain another part.

When I happened across Robin Hills Farm on Facebook and saw it was hosting a “Zen Triathlon,” I had to find out more. So I emailed them, and not only did they invite me out to show me what they’re doing, they hired me to handle the zero waste activities for the event! So I packed…

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Fail at Hightail, and This Must Be Love

What one thing did I do last Friday night that caused these reactions? See if you can guess.

Race director: “Oh, shit.”

Wife: “Do you want some company?”

Daughter: “Oh, Daaaaad!!!”

Daughter’s fiancee: “Do you have any pictures?”

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Give up? Here’s a hint: For the next week or so, y’all can just call me Lefty.

Yes, I managed to do quite a number on myself at the Hightail to Ale 5K in Detroit Friday night. And I hadn’t even had a beer.

The Hightail to Ale is an RF Events race near the Atwater Brewery in Detroit. It’s been described as a beer party with a 5K thrown in. And if you ever wanted proof that “free beer” is a guaranteed draw, check out this photo of just one wave of the runners who showed up.

Hightail 2016 - Wave Start

I was serving as captain of the Zero Waste team, our new initiative for diverting as much waste as possible away from the landfill. I had a particular motivation for doing ZW at this event; last year the few recycle stations had overflowed and I wound up dragging many bags filled with cans and bottles to the trash dumpster.

Last year - good try, but too few and unmanned.

Last year – good try, but too few and unmanned.

That turned out to be of my motivations for starting the ZW program, so we’d come full circle. Now we had ten Zero Hero tents and a staff of volunteers to change the bags out, sort them, and make sure all the recyclables got recycled.

This year: more stations, checked regularly.

This year: more stations, checked regularly.

Along with the free can of beer at the finish (for those of legal age), Atwater was also selling beer like – well, like cold beer on a warm night – and our Zero Hero tents were soon filling up with empties. We stacked the full bags near the dumpster for final sort and weighing before tossing them in.

Final sort before tossing in the dumpster.

Final sort. Note the dumpster is over the fence; this would have serious unintended consequences. (Although added stupidity was needed.)

As the party began to wind down, I observed that some bags of recyclables were being tossed into the dumpster before they were weighed. I walked around the block to access the dumpster (on the other side of this fence) and climbed in to get an estimate of how much was in there.

Seeing that unclosed bags had spilled cans and bottles all over, I decided to forego trying to weigh it. We’d rely on the report from our hauler instead. That wise decision having been made, I made up for it with a bad one.

The main area was just over the chain-link fence. It would be so much quicker to just jump over that fence instead of walking around the block again! The temptation was too much. I put one hand on the top fence rail to steady myself, and kicked myself over.

Sure, anyone could jump that fence from the dumpster. Right?

Sure, anyone could jump that fence from the dumpster. Right?

As I landed on the other side I knew something really bad had happened. My right wrist had caught on the open wire at the top of the fence, and I had a deep gash in it several inches long and bleeding profusely. I clamped my other hand hard over it and walked to the volunteer area. The first-aid truck had just left, of course, so someone called 911.

By the time the ambulance arrived the bleeding had nearly stopped but they confirmed I’d need stitches. I opted for U-M Hospital in Ann Arbor instead of a Detroit hospital, and the race director, after his initial reaction, drove me there. I arrived at 10 p.m. and got through initial triage fairly quickly. However, all the residents were tied up with major trauma cases so I wound up sitting on a hallway gurney most of the night waiting “to get picked up” (hey, that’s the official term).

My wife texted me several times while I waited, wondering if I’d like some company. Finally it got into my thick head that she actually wanted to get out of her warm bed in the middle of the night to sit with her wounded mate. She arrived around 1:30. I was finally stitched up (13 total) and released at 5:00 a.m. Saturday morning.

And that’s how we spent the first few hours of our 33rd anniversary.

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Followup: I am mending well, and while I cancelled my gym sessions for the week, I’m running and cycling to prep for the Glacier Ridge Trail 50 this weekend.

I also owe another shout-out to the Zero Waste crew and the other Hightail volunteers who made sure the tents all got packed up and the remaining waste put where it belonged. You rock, everybody!

And finally: My wife told our daughter in Richmond what had happened during a phone call on Sunday. Her reaction was predictable. Her fiancee, a medical technician, was the one who asked for photos (professional interest). Whether I sent her any or not I won’t divulge here. But I won’t subject my readers to any. (You’re welcome.)

Zero Waste: Adding 3 More “Rs” to Running

Some of my faithful readers know that I have a strong interest in sustainable practices. For those of you who didn’t – well, I have this strong interest in sustainable practices.

Reduce Reuse RecycleThat means, basically, that I support and encourage the three “Rs” of managing waste. I’m also firmly in favor of renewable energy sources and organic farming. This was once considered fringe, “hippie” stuff, but it’s rapidly becoming mainstream, and hopefully will be standard practice before long.

So I’m thrilled to tell you that this year I’m helping bring sustainable practices to another activity that I love – the world of running.

I run, pace, and/or volunteer at over twenty events every year, and it bothers me how much waste they generate and send to landfills. That includes a lot of recyclable cans, bottles, and cardboard, and food waste (banana peels, half-eaten muffins, etc.)  that could be composted.

Trash from a small event last year. All of it went to the landfill.

Trash from a small event last year. All of it went to the landfill.

I figured there had to be a better way, and in my research I came across the Council for Responsible Sport and their certification program that recognizes waste reduction and redirection.

Gazelle Girl 2015 - 3,000 runners, and this is all that went to the landfill.

Gazelle Girl 2015 – 3,000 runners, and this is all that went to the landfill.

After volunteering at an annual women’s race in Grand Rapids that applies the CRS standards to achieve nearly zero waste (read my 2015 post about that here), I knew I wanted to bring what they did to the Ann Arbor area. So I approached my favorite running events company, showed them what was possible, and made my pitch to help them do the same.

To what may be their everlasting regret, they accepted. And so RF Events “Team ZW” was formed.

Saturday's ZW crew - ready to rock that trash! Yours truly on far right.

Saturday’s ZW crew – ready to rock that trash! Yours truly on far right.

To get things going, we obtained a small grant from the Can’d Aid Foundation’s #CrushitCrusade, and used it to obtain training and waste disposal tents from ZeroHero, a company that specializes in sustainable waste management for events all over the country. We scheduled Trail Marathon Weekend, April 23-24, as our inaugural Zero Waste event. We recruited volunteers, deployed the tents, and hoped for the best.

Stylin' it on the trail!

Stylin’ it on the trail!

The results were better than I could have hoped for. Of the nearly 500 pounds of total waste we collected over the weekend, less than 50 went to the landfill. Everything else was recycled, composted, or will be sent to TerraCycle for “upcycling” into new plastic products. And we got several positive comments from the runners. “Those are the coolest tents EVER!” I heard one of them say. (Oh, wait, that was me. But I’m sure many other runners were thinking it.)

So if you’re going to a Running Fit race this year, look for the green shirts and the coolest tents ever, and know that we’re doing our best to make the sport we love better than ever!

Below are more ZW photos from Trail Marathon. Enjoy!

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